Bedtime.

Although chickens have existed in the world for probably thousands of years without human intervention (I’m not a chicken historian, give me a break on that guess), for some reason we, personally, feel that we need to tuck them in every night before it’s time for bed.   I don’t mean actually tuck them in with tiny blankets, but we always go out and check on them one last time and make sure that none of them have done anything silly, like hurt themselves or choke on a piece of pine shaving that they aren’t supposed to be eating.

purplecircle

Apparently, we’re over protective chicken parents.

Last night, they were all in the coop due to the rain yesterday.  Honestly, we could have just left them alone (I’m sure they wish we would), but around 8:30 I announced that I was going to the coop to put the chicks to bed.  The rain had stopped for a bit and my husband came with for his usual moral support.  I had closed the big door to the coop, so they were all comfy and cozy inside and we had put the roosts in that day so we were anxious to see if they were using them because we were convinced they would love sleeping 14 inches above the ground on the wide side of a 2×4…I mean, who wouldn’t love that?

We crept up to the coop door, I undid the lock and slowly opened the door expecting to see snoozing chickens on the roosts.

NOPE.  Every one of them had their beak crammed up against the door to get outside to the run…they are obsessed with being outside.  No matter how many times I explain to them that the Boogie Chicken comes out at night to steal their beaks, they remain stalwart in their obsession.

Which makes me feel bad because they have a really nice setup and if I were a chicken, I would totally dig living there.

I tried not to take their rejection of their newly finished palace personally, but I gave them a brief, stern talking to about roosts and that they needed to at least TRY them because it’s what all the cool chickens do at night.  They pretty much just walked around and peeped at each other.  I also told them that unless they start clucking, no one is going to take them seriously as a chicken.  So get with the program.

We stood in the coop for a while and watched them and nobody even TRIED one of the roosting bars.  Vinnie, the naughty barred rock chick, walked back and forth in front of the roost for a short time, looking at them with one eye (like chickens do), and then made an attempt at flight annnnnnd….perched on top of the feeder.  FAIL.

About that time, my son Greg showed up and said something about a delivery from Domino’s pizza at the front door with 15 meal worm pizzas and that Vinnie had asked if we could get it this time and he’d pay the bill next time.   I told Greg that none of them would even TRY the roosts, so we weren’t paying for anything.

Greg decided he would fix this situation and went into the fenced area of the coop where the chicks were scratching for left over fodder and Cheerios that they’d had earlier as a treat.  I like to call the treat “Fodder-O’s”.  The chicks KNEW that something was up because whenever Greg shows up in the coop he picks them up and holds them and says “Hey…YOU are a nice chicken”.  It’s good for socializing them and getting them used to being held, it has made them friendlier and now they all know they are “nice” chickens…and you know we’re all about their emotional development.

So they all ran back to the door to the run, complaining the whole way.  Greg scooped one up, petted it for a while and complimented it on its feet, “Hey…these are NICE chicken feet”.  He set the chick on the 2×4 perch.  Let me just point out that none of these chickens are going to be Olympic Balance Beam gold medalists.  The chick couldn’t seem to figure out walking on the four-inch board and stepped right off and landed on the floor.  Apparently, we don’t learn much from our experience either, because he tried this several times, with several chicks and they all were completely oblivious to what they should do on a roost.

Greg, being the brilliant evil genius that he is, sprinkled feed on the roost and then picked up Vinnie and Oprah Wingfrey, our two most outgoing chicks, and set them on the roosting bar.  We held our breath.

Now that FOOD was involved, the roosting bar was INFINITELY  more interesting.  Oprah and Vinnie pecked at the feed and forgot they were doing something new by standing on the roosting bar.  Then one of them shoved the other one off the bar and jumped to the ground.  So much for that.  So he kept trying with other chicks and suddenly everyone was showing interest (especially because there was FOOD…even though it was the same food they could get out of the feeder…not the brightest crayons in the box) and looking at the roosting bar with one eye…you know, the way chickens do.

This little exercise went on for about 20 minutes or so, which was good because there was nothing on TV and this was pretty entertaining.  We have a long tree branch that we’d propped up on the roosting bar so that they could just shimmy their way up the nice fat branch and wouldn’t even have to TRY very hard to get up there.  One of the Golden Laced Orpingtons decided that she would try the branch and made it almost all the way to the roosting perch and then the branch rolled and she fell off.

Chickens don’t have a graceful bone in their body, it turns out.

So, Greg, using his best Boy Scout training, used some purple rope that we had in the coop and started lashing the top of the branch to the roosting bar while reciting the Boy Scout pledge…and this would have gone well, but I forgot to mention that the chicks are OBSESSED with the purple rope.  Sometimes we throw the end of it outside the run door when we’re trying to get them inside and they’ll chase it right into the coop.  I don’t get it, but whatever.

As Greg was wrapping the rope around the branch and roost, the end of it was on the floor, he gave it a tug to pull more rope around the branch and felt resistance on the other end.  We were so focused on his Boy Scout skills that we hadn’t even noticed that one of BORBs (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) had grabbed the other end with his beak and was not about to let go of the prized purple rope.

He was like a big feathery trout.

By this time, I was doubled over laughing in my chair in the work area of the coop and Tom was leaning on the sidewall watching with more than mild amusement.  Greg finally finished lashing the branch to the roost with the prized purple rope.  Now the chickens were REALLY interested.  The ROPE was up there.  He scooped up a few more chicks and placed them on the bar.  They cocked their heads and looked at him with one eye…the way chickens do…and pecked the rope a little, decided it was all dumb and either flew off, fell off, or walked down the now stable branch and resumed scratching for Fodder-O’s.

It was clear that we weren’t really getting anywhere with this particular activity.

We finally decided to give up.  We made sure that they couldn’t possibly make a noose out of the rope and tucked in all the ends and got ready to head back up to the main house.  I started my usual baby talk “Night guys!  I love you!  Sweet dreams!” while Greg  yelled “DON’T STAY UP TOO LATE!” and Tom shook his head because Greg and I have reached some new level of insanity that isn’t classified in any textbooks.  We locked the coop and started walking up the path to the main house, while Greg went to his apartment above the three car detached garage.

So what have we learned from this?

Everyone should buy some purple rope, chickens can be caught like fish,  and you can lead a chicken to a perch, but you can’t make him roost.  Also, I’ve learned that “Fodder-O’s” is not in the spell checker at WordPress.

I think we accomplished quite a lot.

 

2 thoughts on “Bedtime.

  1. Did you drop your chickens on their heads? 🙂 or maybe mine just have a stronger roost gene. I had to put branches in at 10 days to keep them from roosting on their gate (a foot off the ground). My 5 weeks olds spent the day in the coop and I caught them napping on the 3rd and tallest roost. First 1 is a foot, 2nd one is 3 foot and the highest 1 is 4 feet. I’m sure they stair stepped it, but still. They SHOULD instinctively go for the highest they can get. My feral rooster sleeps in our mango tree, 20 feet off the ground (and the first branch is 15 feet off the ground). I watched our feral hen last spring forcing her babies into the lemon tree several feet off the ground at like 2 weeks. It’s a safety thing.

    I’d be interested if you snuck out at like midnight, if they’d be sleeping on the roosts.

  2. At 8:30 I’m assuming it’s full dark where you are. They should have been quiet for the night. If you turned the light on to see, that would have gotten them going again.

    Had they had much time to check out the roosts before it got dark? I know mine take hours to adapt to new things in the coop. The pastured chicks, when they start to lay, can take up to 2 days to get used to the portable nestboxes we put in at that point.

    At 14″ it might not have been much of an attraction. Our roosts:

    http://www.bonzos-pics.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=5424

    start at 18″, and go up 1′ and back 1′, so the top one is 3.5′. This provides plenty of roost space, except…. Everyone wants to be on the top one. That one has enough space (8 linear inches per bird) for 10.5 birds and there will be up to 15 squashed up there. The unlucky, low caste ones end up on the second highest. No one uses the 18″.

    The other thing is that the roosts must be higher than the bottom of the nestboxes, or they will sleep in the nestboxes. If they do this, they will crap them up each night. Crappy eggs are not fun to gather, and can pose a health problem.

    If the initial access to the roosts is higher than 18″, providing a ladder they can’t fall off is a good idea. The heavier breeds will get breast bruises if they have to jump/fly off higher areas when they are grown. This goes for access to nestboxes too.

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